Commentary: Iowa back on track after off-the-field issues


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My house brimmed with adolescent boys when I was a mullet-sporting 8-year-old. (Sadly, my mother thought it was an endearing look. She always loved the ’80s.)

I have three older brothers, Tom, Joe, and Dave. They undoubtedly put my parents through the ringer with their athletic powers, playing numerous sports.

I, of course, was my mom’s tagalong companion.

It became a tradition for my redheaded, boisterous mother and me to wait for my siblings to emerge from the locker room following every game.

To occupy me, but mostly to entertain herself, “Mama Kiehn” as she became affectionately known in the Chicago burbs, had me pretend I was a sports reporter on live TV.

I’d spew out highlight rundowns (“Kiehn breaks the tackle … moves down the sideline … First down, Pirates”) and awesome one-liners (“Boom goes the dynamite” ring a bell?) as if my words were being transmitted on ESPN airwaves.

The inkling stuck. I am sportswriter now. Cool. Thanks, Mom.

Covering this year’s football team has been, to be blunt, unpredictable.

With the mounting criminal behavior ransacking the program between 2006-2008, I was constantly defending Iowa’s reputation to friends from far more inferior schools. It was frustrating.

This year, however, has been a good one. Scratch that — a great year.

Iowa’s athletics accomplishments have prevailed passed previous questionable off-the-field happenings. I mean, Iowa was on the cover of Sports Illustrated after ushering in the best start in school history.

Stuff like that happens to USC and Florida because, well, they’re USC and Florida. The temperature toward Iowa nationally consistently appears to be boringly lukewarm, not worthy of glossy magazine pages.

“Dude. Amie. What happened at Penn State last year was a stupid fluke. It ain’t going to happen this year. No way, no how,” I was told.

Scoreboard: Iowa 21-10. (Ahem, you obviously have not seen Adrian Clayborn’s football résumé.)
“Ricky Stanzi’s inconsistency is plaguing Iowa’s offense,” they said.

Hmm. How about Stanzi’s final drive against Michigan State for accuracy? And boy, that Indiana fourth quarter was a great little afternoon delight wasn’t it?

“Iowa is going to be ripped to shreds by the Buckeyes. Hope someone is smart enough to put Marvin McNutt back behind center,” doubters continued.

If James Vandenberg did not impress you against Ohio State, I am going to tell you to stop inviting “Debbie” to your pity party. The redshirt freshman threw for 233 yards while Terrelle Pryor had only 93.

Stop being a downer. The effort in Columbus, Ohio, showed why Iowa has been great for college football.

Tuesday, head coach Kirk Ferentz was asked, “What changed to make these last two years so enjoyable?”

“A lot of hard work and a lot of collective effort,” he replied. “But it’s all about the players.”

I cannot agree with you more, Coach K. The players in this exceptional collegiate ride may not have been highly rated recruits, but they’re five-star-caliber individuals.

“To me, it’s all about attitude more than anything else,” Ferentz said, “and whatever reason, I think we’re back on the path we want to be on.”

The makeup of the Iowa’s team varies, but two consistent threads connect everyone associated with the program — humility and tenacity.

Giving up isn’t an option. Ever.

I like that. I started my sports journalism career learning that valuable lesson.

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